494 – You Can’t Go Back: 01


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Because I was listening to Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier’s Smodcast the other day, I quite by accident learned about a delightful creature known as the Cymothoa exigua. Because it is horrible and deeply, deeply disturbing, I am sharing it here with you.

tonguebugPictured to the right is the Cymothoa exigua in the mouth of a spotted rose snapper. The fish is not eating it. That’s because the Cymothoa exigua has evolved to fill a very particular and peculiar ecological niche. When a Cymo spots a passing spotted rose snapper, he quickly approaches the fish and swims alongside, until he can swim inside it’s mouth. (I so have the willies right now.) Once there, the Cymo clamps down on the base of the fish’s tongue, where it stays from there on. 

Inside the fish’s mouth, the little Cymo feeds on the fish’s blood and/or mucus until the tongue eventually atrophies from lack of blood and falls off. The Cymo then clamps onto the fish’s exposed tongue muscles, and from that point on the fish has full use of the Cymothoa exigua itself as a surrogate tongue

If there is a god, he is one fucked up dude.

23 Responses to 494 – You Can’t Go Back: 01

  1. I want one.
    “How’s the food?”
    “Just wonderful, I got a bit of dirt out of it for ya.”
    “Thanks, hey I have something in my teeth.”
    “Already on it.”

  2. *shiver*

    One can only imagine how long it took to evolve such a creature. Wonder what their percentage is in being swallowed while attaching.

    • I don’t know. They probably crawl back up the fish’s throat if they get swallowed. If for no other reason than it would be even MORE gross.

  3. WTF?????? 😯

    I have to thank you, Kevin, for bringing this wonderfully parasite to my attention. I just spent some delightful half an hour googling for more pictures and background info on this crustacean. Shameful to say, despite being an biologist I had never heard of these isopods before, not even during the parasite ecology course I took in college.

    Once again, this thing is grosser than anything a science fiction author could come up with. In fact, it’s a great parasite to use in a horror or sci-fi roleplaying game or story. Can’t wait to see the faces of my players when I show them the pictures I found. Now I wonder if H.R. Giger knew about these creatures… take a close look at the mouth of the Giger Alien from the Alien movies. When it opens its mouth, its “tongue” has a secondary mouth with teeth.

    The good thing is, apparently Cymothoa exigua and related species attach only to fish tongues, with Cymothoa exigua found specifically only in the Spotted Rosesnapper Lutjanus guttatus, and it has so far been only found in the Gulf of California (and in one redsnapper’s mouth that was sold in the UK). Talk about a narrow niche. 😉

    From what I read, the larvae of Cymothoa do not enter the fish mouth from the front, they crawl in through the gills, as many other fish parasites do, too, although other fish parasites usually stay in the gills and suck blood there.

    • You know I think I remember reading that. Guess I forgot it before I actually wrote the blog. Of course the whole time I was trying to read the facts without looking at any of the pictures. Ugh!

    • Could you email me some of those pictures, and maybe give me a summary of the info you dug up on these beautifully disgusting little beasties? They would be wonderful additions to my menagerie of twisted things to make my players paranoid with. (-: Best email to use for this is misha@arcane-recreations.com Thanks!

  4. As for the comic:
    Is that a return of Swillsberne Rocshlassen, my favorite swashbuckling rogue? Hurray! :mrgreen:

  5. Whole twist on ‘Bite your tongue.’

    Happy Memorial day everyone!

    Excellent background work in the strip. I like the technique!

    • Thanks Rieve, I really liked it too.

      And Happy Memorial Day to you as well. I like to think that we can remember those who sacrificed on our behalf with joy in our hearts and smiles on our faces.

  6. Somewhat OT; just (meaning earlier earlier today) read a Scientific American piece (referred from Slashdot) proposing making dog breeds distinct species. Some interesting points in the comments.

    Christina, you observe “Shameful to say, despite being an biologist I had never heard of these isopods before, not even during the parasite ecology course I took in college.” Given the range of biological diversity that is neither “shameful” nor surprising – after all how many biologists specializing in Arthropoda can name every species if beetle?

    • Sounds like a trick question to me. What do you think the odds are that we know of every kind of beetle? Every kind of beetle in New Jersey? Every kind of beetle in Newark?

  7. Looking forward to seeing more of Swillsberne, that thing is horrible, and my wife is a devout follower of the Kevin Smith/Scott Mossier Smodcast. She’s happy to hear that you listen as well Kevin. Noodlebug: I thought it was funny.

  8. Sometimes… nature is more twisted than our imagination would let us belive…

    And… for the first panel – the paining-like background the airship apparenly is attached to – Did you find that pic on the net or snapped it from somewhere you visited??? Correct me if i am wrong – but I am damn sure that is the merchant-building from a middleage-enactment family center here in Denmark!

  9. I did start with a photo from the net… but it’s been far too long for me to remember what it was originally. Looked like a good settlement on a lake though! 🙂

    Many of the backgrounds I use begin their lives as actual places. Some are places I have visited and others are from Flickr or other photo sharing sites. (I tend to carry the digital camera everywhere I go and am constantly looking at walls or rooflines or anything else I can grab for the comic.) All of the photographic scenes are heavily modified and “arted up,” often removing, re-coloring, or rearranging elements, and made to match the background theme I’ve tried to create here.

    So… there is every chance you are correct. If so, you win the prize for being the first person to recognize an actual place!

    (Heroes of Lesser Earth… shot on location in Denmark, England, Scotland, America, Romania, Brazil, Belgium… etc… etc…)

  10. Heh – went straight to the web when i saw your comment, AND i think i found a pic taken from a position just a few meters left of yours… don’t know if anyone want to see it, but here is the adress:


    It’s the third picture…

    And keep up the good work !
    I enjoy it!

  11. These things are further proof that God, should he/she/it actually prove to exist, has an amazing and messed up sense of humor.
    As if the platypus wasn’t enough!